Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXIX No. 23, March 16-31 2020
When Aught Befalls Us
This article is going to take some time to type out for The Man from Madras Musings has to take frequent breaks to wash his hands with sanitizer, adjust his surgical mask, take it off to drink rasam and munch his way through two cloves of garlic and finally ponder over whether he did the right the thing by refusing the offer of a full glass of cow’s urine, with a pinch of dried dung to taste. All of these precautions are being taken to ensure that the dreaded Covid-19 does not strike MMM.
First, the hand sanitizer. But hang on, let MMM get a couple of drops on to his palm and then come back to the rest of this column. MMM is all for its use for he is informed that among all the suggestions, mostly daft, that are doing the rounds to keep the virus at bay, this is the most practical. But there are difficulties with it too – if the perfume is very strong, it makes you want to sneeze and then you begin wondering if you have been crowned by the Corona.
The mask is perhaps the least useful among all the precautionary measures. Having recently travelled about the country, MMM was amused to find airport after airport resembling a vast operation theatre – people grimly going about their activities with their faces hidden behind surgical masks. That was of course nothing when compared to those who sported masks but not on their faces. Some had it hanging around their necks and a couple even dangled it from their elbows. Some kept it within hand’s reach, in their cabin baggage. MMM labelled them all as suffering not from the virus but the helmet syndrome. You may have seen people going about on two-wheelers with the helmet hanging from the handlebars or from their elbows. These people assume that it is enough to have a helmet about or near their person for safety and it is not necessary to wear it over the head. The same goes for the surgical mask. Why wear it at all if it was not meant to cover the mouth?
MMM also notices that there is a certain class distinction among the mask wearers. At the lowest level are the light green ones, mere commonplace accessories as it were. Then come the more fancy – there is one in yellow and another in scarlet with light pink dots. You also have some that appear to be designer wear – you would not be seen dead in them if you were normal. Still higher up in the hierarchy are respirators, they even have a thingummy at the end that filters out airborne particles. MMM has noticed that those who wear these look down at those wearing mere masks. There exists, so MMM is informed, a third and inferior class that wear hankies around their nose and mouth but of these MMM will not write. He does not believe in mingling with the hoi polloi. All three categories have one aspect in common – very few believe in any other form of hygiene, including the washing of hands. They assume that the mask will handle it all.
The telephone operators have substituted all ring tones with a longwinded message on the virus and this begins with a sepulchral cough. MMM approves of this initiative but wonders as to why the entire monologue is in English. Is it likely that the deadly scourge affects only the Peter class as they are referred to in Chennai? What about those who don’t know the Queen’s language?
Which brings MMM to the heading of this article. The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius is believed to have said that when aught, as in misfortune, befalls us, it is a good thing. MMM strongly doubts if the good ruler could have really said as much, in the first place he would not have known any English. But the core of the message is that aught when it befalls us is a good thing as it is part of the Universe’s grand design. MMM would prefer to go with the Tamil seer who in a couplet said that if aught befalls us, we ought to smile. He said it in Tamil by the way and we have the original to prove it.
More tales from Babu land
It was only a couple of fortnights ago that The Man from Madras Musings wrote of his interactions with the bureaucracy, which he dubs Babudom much to the distress of a close friend of his who was a very senior bureaucrat while in service. There is now more to write on MMM’s dealings with those in Paper-Pushing-Land.
This is that season of the year when Babus develop a desire to meet MMM. And so it was with this lady panjandrum (MMM does not think Lady Babu or Babess is in any way appropriate) who summoned MMM for an audience. Would Sir be free Sir to meet Madam in her office Sir on such and such date Sir, asked an obsequious voice over the phone and MMM agreed, he having never been knighted so many times before. When MMM was ushered into her presence, the Madam in question said her department was in urgent need of some content and it gave her great pleasure to give the task to MMM, who she said, had to get it all complete within a couple of fortnights, as the honourable minister had declared that he was going to inaugurate something for which it was required. MMM, having said that he was deeply conscious of the honour done to him, responded that the time was too short and he had other commitments and so would not be able to take this on.
This did not go down well. MMM could see that Lady P was thinking wistfully of historic times when such disobedience could have merited decapitation at the least. Having clenched her teeth and expressed annoyance, much to the terror of those in attendance, she said that the team will need to manage without MMM and in any case while Google and Wikipedia was available what did they need to worry for. MMM was ushered out. As he left, a factotum chided MMM gently for being so rigid and losing a golden opportunity for being of service to the nation. To this MMM replied that he had had enough interactions with Babudom to know that very little actually happened after much waste of time and effort. The poobah replied that this was not the case in this instance and Madam and others were go getters who would achieve results. MMM did not dispute this but deep down inside him there was a fatigue of dealing with the bureaucracy that said he had done the right thing.
The next morning MMM opened the newspapers to read that the Madam who had expressed such urgency had been transferred to the equivalent of a waterless desert. Last heard, the so-called urgent project had been put into cold storage. MMM rests, and so does his case.
In all the chaos over Coronavirus, lesser threats such as the mosquito menace have been forgotten. The Man from Madras Musings, who is plagued with these flying syringes, had invited a guest home for dinner and sent her a message in jest that MMM, his good lady, also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed, and a million mosquitoes eagerly awaited her arrival. He got a reply stating that the guest was carrying a message of goodwill from the mosquitoes at her place addressed to those at chez MMM and would shortly be over once the draft had been ratified. The subsequent dinner was enjoyed by all, amid much swapping of views on whose mosquitoes are sharper and in the interim some swatting of the winged and uninvited guests.